Luciano Spalletti was a managerial magician for SSC Napoli. Mazzari, Sarri and Ancelotti had come close, but it was Spalletti who finally brought the Serie A title back to Naples. It had been 33 years since Alberto Bigon led a Diego Maradona-inspired Gli Azzurri to its last title. Two seasons before, Maradona’s magical skill had helped Ottavio Bianchi to bring a historic first Scudetto to Naples.
Maradona departed after Napoli’s second title. Spalletti left after the third, albeit in more auspicious circumstances than Napoli’s previous magician. The 64-year-old has assumed leadership of the Italian national team, with Napoli replacing him with Rudi Garcia.
Garcia’s appointment in Naples raised many eyebrows. Although the Frenchman managed Lille to Ligue 1 glory and a Coupe de France win, that was back in 2010/11. He’s had limited managerial experience since. At the time, Garcia’s recruitment after his dismissal from Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia perplexed and concerned many Partenopei.
Most of the top betting sites in the UK installed Napoli as the pre-season favourites to hold onto the Serie A title in 2023/24. The defending champion’s form in the early part of the season has seen Gli Azzurri drift in the betting over the first eight rounds of fixtures. With Napoli lying fifth in the table, and the recent doubts about its management, bookmakers are now offering 8/1 odds on the unsettled Champions.
Napoli are seven points off the Serie A pace set by leaders AC Milan (2/1). The bookies’ favourites Inter Milan (5/4) and perennial frontrunners Juventus (5/1) are also ahead of Napoli. Fiorentina (50/1), 3-1 winners in Naples recently, complete the current top four, according to this site’s top-rated bookmakers.
Supporters and punters alike wait to see whether Napoli’s current problems, both on and off the field, will find a quick resolution. Bettors should continually access betting sites to keep a well-rounded eye on the Serie A odds, and Napoli’s in particular.
Further developments could soon happen at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, but is Rudi Garcia the right man to maintain Napoli’s current success level, and can Gli Azzurri keep the Scudetto under his watch in 2023/24?
It appears Garcia and the squad may not get the chance to answer those questions. An average start to Napoli’s Serie A title defence has seen some dissatisfaction in Garcia’s management surface. Some of this comes from an important member of the club’s hierarchy.
Napoli Chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis recently commented to the Italian newspaper, la Repubblica:
“I am having a bad time with [Garcia]. I am an entrepreneur and I must be interested in what happens inside the company. The coach and the sports director are at your service. I will make appropriate decisions at the right time. The environment can’t influence me, one must always take time to think.
When you hire a coach who no longer knows Italian football, it’s normal to struggle, the same would have happened to everyone. It’s useless to blame newcomers, football is not like a building under construction, which won’t collapse if you are sure it was built well. Aside from choosing [Garcia], my only responsibility is that I could not remain close to him every day at Castel Volturno.”
Further reports in the publication state that De Laurentis is ready to offer Garcia a mutual contract termination option. It seems the Chairman wants to replace him in the dugout with Antonio Conte. Conte won the Serie A Scudetto four times in five seasons with two clubs, but concerns about his potential appointment remain.
Many fans in Naples still connect Conte and Juventus together, which isn’t surprising. The fiery manager led Napoli’s fierce rivals to three consecutive Serie A titles when in charge at la Vecchia Signora. With Conte’s family home still in Turin, a large portion of the Partenopei may choose not to support the prospective new appointment.
Another question mark surrounding a Conte appointment is his management style. Rudi Garcia has reportedly alienated certain senior team members in the dressing room already. It seems he’s made them doubt their worth by making them feel replaceable. Conte’s volatility and perceived arrogance may also not be a great fit with some team members already feeling under threat. Would his appointment drive the Champions to improved performances on the field or just the opposite?
Although not great, Napoli’s results haven’t been awful which is testimony to the talent of the squad. Gli Azzurri might have lost Kim Min-Jae over the off-season but has signed a respectable replacement in Natan. Jesper Lindstrøm has also replaced Hirving Lozano’s attacking presence so the squad is not noticeably weaker than last season.
It is crucial that Khvicha Kvaratskhelia keeps operating at his full playmaking potential. Star striker Victor Osimhen has refound his form after the unfortunate TikTok incident. With Kvaratskhelia and Osimhen on song, Napoli could still drag back the current points deficit.
Change for Napoli must happen soon, whether Rudi Garcia, Antonio Conte or another manager commands the dressing room. The boss must begin to restore the player harmony that was such a huge part of Luciano Spalletti’s success. Some Spalletti-type magic needs finding to prompt positive results both in the dressing room and on the playing surface. Catching the leaders will be tough. Restoring morale and team spirit should improve results and see Gli Azzurri challenging again, though.